Kansas State will travel to Waco, Texas, on Tuesday night for a matchup with No. 5 Baylor, with both teams looking for recovery.
K-State (10-8, 2-5 Big 12) is still trying to dig out of a hole from a four-game losing streak to start the Big 12 season. The Wildcats defeated ranked teams in back-to-back games before blowing a 17-point, second-half lead in a 78-75 loss to No. 7 Kansas Saturday. The Wildcats led most of the game before Kansas stormed back to take an insurmountable lead with nine seconds left.
“Obviously it hurts,” K-State coach Bruce Weber said after the game. “Our guys were ready to play. We played at the magical level. Nijel (Pack) had one of those magical games. Markquis (Nowell) was really, really effective.
“I think we are a good team. We just let a great opportunity slip by.”
Pack had a career-high 35 points against Kansas. He almost tied his previous high of 26 with his 22 first-half points. Kansas coach Bill Self said, “He may have been the best guard in America today.”
K-State will need another solid effort from Pack and Nowell (16 points against Kansas) to defeat Baylor (17-2, 5-2 Big 12). The Bears have won two straight, but only after becoming the first team No. 1 team in the AP Top 25 to lose two home games in the same week.
It’s hard to feel sorry for the defending national champs, but their psyche had to be damaged by home losses to No. 19 Texas Tech and unranked Oklahoma State. The Bears have responded with wins last Tuesday at West Virginia and Saturday at Oklahoma, thanks to a strong defensive effort.
Baylor held Oklahoma to a season-low 51 points. The Bears scored 35 points off 25 Oklahoma turnovers.
“Schematically, we changed how we did things (defensively),” Baylor coach Scott Drew said. “We switched a lot more, stayed with the man on the cuts, made sure we did a better job protecting the paint. And then, I think being a lot more locked into their personnel.”
Baylor has a balanced attack, including depth off the bench. The Bears’ leading scorer, LJ Cryer (13.9 points per game), has started only two games this season. The team has four players averaging in double figures in scoring, and Jeremy Sochan (7.9 ppg) and Jonathan Tchamwa Tchatchoua (7.8) have combined to start only one game.
Both teams will have to put Saturday in the rear-view mirror.
“(Moving past Saturday’s loss) comes from (the players),” Weber said about preparing for Baylor. “They’re the ones who have changed the season from where we were. We had some really difficult struggles, some things happen that we couldn’t control. They made the decision to change it.
“The one good thing is everybody is in the top 64, so every time you get a win you’re moving up in the ratings.”
Heading into the matchup with K-State, the Bears are in a better mood than a week ago.
“We like this week a lot more than last week,” Drew said.
–Field Level Media